Where you can find these fascinating creatures in Hong Kong.
We all love Hong Kong for the hustle, bustle and wealth of opportunities it offers. However, there is so much more to this city – with plenty of forest cover and the sea close by, it is also home to many varieties of animals, big and small. Next time you take to the hills for a morning run or plan a camping (or glamping) holiday with the family, keep an eye out for these creatures commonly seen all over Hong Kong. As an extra bonus, we’ve got some fun facts that make you a Hong Kong wildlife expert!
East Asian Porcupine
East Asian porcupines are shy animals, mostly seen in mating pairs. You’ll often hear their quills rustling in the undergrowth, even if you can’t see them! You can sometimes spot scat (poo), prints, and teeth marks where they have chewed at the base of trees.
Where to spot the East Asian porcupine in Hong Kong: Being nocturnal animals, you can often see them on night hikes, especially the Morning Trail and Black’s Link.
Protected by law, the Burmese Python is Hong Kong’s largest species of snake. Given its distinct colouration, pattern and size, it’s relatively easy to identify. This species can theoretically grow to over six metres in length, and weigh up to 90kg. However, the longest ever recorded in Hong Kong was 4.5 metres (still very impressive!). If you’re interested in local reptiles, I highly recommend you join the Facebook Group Hong Kong Snakes and maybe even sign up for one of their popular nighttime snake safaris. Another great resource to learn about the Burmese python and other snakes of Hong Kong is Hong Kong Snake Id.
Where to spot the Burmese python in Hong Kong: Found across the territory, from Hong Kong Island to the New Territories. These snakes prefer less developed areas and favour habitation close to water or marshlands.
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You can often find this sun-loving changeable lizard basking on shrubs and walls. The one above is a female. You can get quite close to them – they will look at you and cock their heads, but eventually, scurry up a tree or into a bush. They have teeth that are designed for gripping and not tearing. Their prey (such as grasshoppers) are swallowed whole, after being stunned by shaking them about.
You can often see males brightening their red heads and doing “push-ups”. Each tries to attract a female by inflating his throat and drawing attention to his handsomely coloured head. See how the male and female differ (the bright orange one is the male). Unlike other lizards, they do not drop their tails (autotomy), and they are whiplike – very long, stiff and pointy.
Where to spot the changeable lizard in Hong Kong: I recently saw this lovely pair in Lions Park in Sai Kung and another at the start of the Buffalo Hill hike. You can find them commonly around Hong Kong.
Chinese White (Pink!) Dolphin
Adult Chinese white dolphins get their striking pink colour not from any pigment, but from blood vessels that are overdeveloped for thermoregulation. Sadly, they are critically endangered in Hong Kong due to habitat loss, fishing bycatch, vessel collision and pollution. Their numbers in local waters have fallen from an estimated 158 in 2003, to just 32 in 2020.
Where to spot the pink dolphin in Hong Kong: You can see these dolphins off Lantau. Sign up for a morning of dolphin watching with the Hong Kong Dolphinwatch. It’s such a privilege to see them up close.
Golden Orb Weaver
When we think of wildlife in Hong Kong, we don’t often think of spiders, though this is a beautiful creature! The golden orb weaver is a common sight when walking on the trails, especially in the summer months. Look closely in its huge web and you will see multiple tiny red males, who often end up as a meal during mating! Prey insects, small birds and bats that blunder into the sticky lines are stunned by a quick bite and then wrapped in silk.
Where to spot the golden orb weaver in Hong Kong: All over Hong Kong, especially on hiking trails in the summer.
Increasingly common in urban settings, the wild boar uses its long, rubbery snout for digging underground roots and bulbs, often tearing up large areas of forest…and refuse stations! These omnivores eat more or less everything, which is why they are particularly happy to rummage through our unattended garbage. As property development continues to encroach into Hong Kong’s green belt areas, wild animals continue to be displaced. Some, like the wild boar, adapt well to living in the urban landscape. I’ve seen them all over from Macdonnell Road to Parkview! Most seem completely unfazed by humans.
Where to spot wild boar in Hong Kong: All over Hong Kong. Keep your eyes peeled on the Bowen Road walk in Central – one Sassy Mama had a close encounter while pregnant not that long ago!
A weird and wonderful insect, the Lantern Bug has a head that is often nearly as large as its body, produced into a hollow structure resembling a rhino horn. It has six legs, extremely varied and brilliantly contrasting markings, and the mouth of a mosquito! These unusual creatures stay on the same tree for generations. This is the perfect time of the year to spot lantern bugs, so keep an eye out when you are hiking next. They usually favour longan, lychee and mango trees and can sometimes gather in large numbers.
Where to spot lantern bugs in Hong Kong: There are two trees in Aberdeen Country Park which I always see at least one on!
Hong Kong Warty Newt
Of the 23 species of amphibians in the territory, the Hong Kong warty newt is the territory’s only salamander or tailed amphibian. Brilliantly camouflaged brown with an orange belly, this newt favours unpolluted mountain streams. During the breeding season, the males have fire-red bellies.
Where to spot the Hong Kong warty newt: I’ve seen them all over Hong Kong (both in and out of water) from the Peak to Ma On Shan, Parkview and Tai Po. And it is always a thrill!
Mudskippers are actually amphibious fish that can live in and out of water. They use their side pectoral fins to “walk”, “skip”, “jump” – and even to climb trees! Very active, these strange creatures are constantly defending their territory, feeding or courting. They live in burrows made by the males who also look after the many hundreds of eggs that the females lay.
Where to spot mudskippers in Hong Kong: The best place to see them is in the Hong Kong Wetland Park up in Tin Shui Wai where they live alongside another iconic species – the bright orange Fiddler Crab.
Usually seen riding the thermal waves, the most common bird of prey in Hong Kong is the black-eared kite. Research suggests that in the winter, you could find up to 3,000 birds, but in the summer only around 300 or so may choose to stay in Hong Kong. As well as eating fish, these kites also feed on birds, snakes, lizards, rodents and carrion (the decaying flesh of dead animals).
They are master flyers, with an average wingspan of 150cm, gliding effortlessly among the tallest skyscrapers in the city. If you listen closely, you can often hear their distinctive shrill, whinnying call. Though I see them every day from my window 22 floors up and they sometimes come so close, it is remarkable that I haven’t been able to get a clear picture yet. Thankfully, Robert Ferguson’s comprehensive Hong Kong Wildlife ID Booklet shows you the magnificence of this bird up close and personal.
Where to spot black kites in Hong Kong: All over Hong Kong. From the inner city to the Aberdeen Reservoirs and outlying islands.
Start A New Hobby!
If you would like to know more about Hong Kong wildlife and/or have a future conservationist at home, do head out for nature walks and treks around the city. It’s exciting to see how much of Hong Kong’s varied wildlife you can spot. Alternatively, you could also have kids play a game of Hong Kong Wildlife Bingo and see how they learn and remember challenge facts with ease and enthusiasm.